Uhura, Harrison Davids and Drevan materialized on the planetary surface. Around them, the land was essentially bare, the finely powdered surface being whipped into the air by the wind, stinging the exposed skin of both of the Humans. Drevan looked at his tricorder. "This must be one of the less hospitable areas; the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide strongly suggests a considerable degree of active photosynthesis on the planet."
"Probably from an ocean, Drevan," Davids quipped. "Id guess were in the local equivalent of the Sahara Desert."
"With all due respect, gentlebeings, Im not particularly interested in your theories about the planetary ecology." The captain checked the chronometer on her wrist. "Im just interested in making this exchange and getting back to where I can take a shower. I hope that Orion Trader arrives soon; this grit gets everywhere, fast."
Almost as if summoned by Uhuras remark, an Orion Trader stepped out from behind a stone outcropping. "You have the price?"
Uhura nodded, gesturing to a modest sized trititanium chest just behind her. "We do. You have what we came for?"
The captain looked over at Davids, who nodded, his dishwater blonde hair dancing as he did so. "Mediscanner shows what looks like a Human, with prosthetic support systems, nearby."
She smiled. "Excellent." Uhura turned back to the trader. "Do you wish to inspect the contents of the chest?"
For a moment, the traders eyes opened slightly more widely, then returned to normal. "Please understand that I do not doubt your honesty. The United Federation of Planets has been scrupulously honest in its dealings in the past. But I would greatly desire to see the contents of the chest; such immense wealth in a single place is a rare thing."
Without moving, Uhura gestured to her chief science officer, who opened the chest. Inside was a kings ransom in precious stones and precious metal. A look of greed flitted across the Orions face for an instant, to be replaced by a controlled appearance.
"Close the chest, and lock it, please. It is more temptation than I care to face." The trader shook his head. "More than I can trust any of my crew to handle, for that matter. Locking it will help keep honest beings honest."
The Andorian closed the chest and locked it.
"If you are satisfied with our end of the bargain " Uhura let the question die unfinished.
The Orion trader gestured at someone out of sight. Two Orions appeared, between them walking what looked, at first sight, like a childs attempt to draw a robot, copied into life size and animated. An almost perfect oval sat on a set of articulated rings; in turn, the rings attached to a slightly rounded rectangle with ball-and-stick caricatures of arms and legs. Set into the oval were two photoreceptors where eyes would have been had it been a normal head, and a small, dark circle that was obviously a speaker grille. Before Uhura could ask, Davids answered, "Inside that contraption, theres whats left of a severely injured Human in advanced life support. Its effectively a whole body prosthesis."
"Precisely so," the Orion Trader responded, taking the trititanium chest. "The profit on this exchange is far thinner than you believe. The cost of supporting this Human and building the prosthesis was huge." The trader moved back to his companions, setting the chest between the three of them. "It has been a pleasure doing business with you, gentlebeings." The Orions disappeared into the sparkle of the transporter, chest and all.
Almost tentatively, but with a clearly Human fluidness and grace that seemed almost incongruous in its mechanical setting, the individual they had ransomed strode toward the threesome. "Under the circumstances," the speaker grille intoned emotionlessly, "I would suggest that the four of us transport to your ship. Although I am reasonably nearly impervious to this environment, its probably most uncomfortable for you." He, she or it, stood between them.
Uhura flipped her communicator open. "Four to beam up, Indri."
Indri stood behind the controls of the transporter, with Reichard at his elbow, waiting for the team on the surface to signal the successful completion of their task.
Across the speaker came a familiar voice. "Four to beam up, Indri."
As soon as Indri heard Uhuras voice, he activated the transporter, bringing them back aboard the Hyperion. As they materialized, there was a brief silence. Ultimately, it was the voice from the speaker grille that broke it.
"Do any of you know me?"
Uhura tilted her head to one side, getting a better view of the individual they had ransomed. "Unless youre the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, youre not exactly recognizable. Maybe if you told me who you are, I might be able to answer your question."
The Tin Man stepped down off the transporter. "Tin Man. I like that nickname, even if the shell of this thing is mainly trititanium."
"Indeed," Indri added. "It appears to be a remarkable system altogether. Perhaps you would allow me to scan it in Engineering later?"
"And you havent answered my question," Uhura continued. "Unless you want to be called Tin Man, it would help if you told us who you are."
The oval head on the tin man shook, almost sadly. "I wish I could answer your question, Madam. Unfortunately, Im afraid I cant. Tin Man will have to do."
"Are you trying to tell us your identity is classified?" Drevan asked. "If so, no need to worry. Harrison Davids and I have the highest security clearance possible, and Ill vouch for Indri and Captain Uhura. Im sure Harrison Davids will, too."
Before the physicians assistant could add his agreement, the Tin Man spoke. "Oh, its not like that at all, Im afraid. If you hadnt the highest of security clearances, Im sure they wouldnt have let you come ransom me. The problem is that I dont remember who I am." He paused a second. "Given my memory problems, maybe you should call me Scarecrow?"
Davids tricorder came up, scanning him in detail. "Id say go with Tin Man. Theres no immediate evidence of organic injury to the brain, but given the trauma that youve suffered, some degree of post-traumatic amnesia isnt too surprising. We should be able to help you through that down in Sickbay."
"I hope so." The Tin Man moved toward the turbolift. "If youll take me there?"
Davids shook his head. "I think you should let Indri work you over first, Tin Man. Theres got to be one or more ports on that suit of yours through which we can administer medication, but Ill be hung out in a vacuum if I can figure where they are. If its all the same to you, Id rather have a good idea where we can give whatever we figure you need, without causing more trouble than were worth."
Uhura nodded. "Davids, if youre convinced that there is no medical problem that needs immediate attention?"
"Cant find any, Captain. Could be fooled, trying to scan through all the ironmongery, but Id doubt it."
"Then Indri, if youll do the detailed Engineering scans first, you can take him to Sickbay when youre done."
Indri nodded his acquiescence, and moved toward the turbolift, the Tin Man at his heels.
Reichard turned to Uhura. "Well, Captain, what will you tell Admiral Gragar?"
"Hopefully," she responded, "before I make the report, Tin Man will have remembered who he is, Ken. Until then, get a couple of security guards on him."
Both individuals looked at Davids. "If youre expecting guarantees out of me, folks, youre out of luck." He shook his head. "Ask MBenga after hes had a chance to look him over. If its all the same to you good people, I think Im going to head for Sickbay and give em fair warning."
As the door to the turbolift closed, Indri turned to the Tin Man, his olive skin reflecting off the polished tritanium of the Tin Mans life support suit. "Do you have any recollection at all of what happened to you?
The trititanium head shook. "Not a bit. The first thing that I remember was a gaggle of Orions around me, in an intensive care area, being aware of the fact that my arms and legs were gone, that there were metal plates on the stumps, with wires going here and there, and tubes entering me in too many places, most of which Id rather not remember, let alone discuss." A sigh exited the speaker grille. "Before that, nothing. I feel, well, adrift, you know? I cant even remember my parents, or even if I had any. I dont suppose you can understand how that feels."
The turbolift door slid open, and the two exited. Unobtrusively, a pair of security guards began following them at a discreet distance. As the group walked, Indri turned to the Tin Man. "Quite on the contrary, that part I understand only too well. I was a foundlingmy parents, whomever they were, deposited me on the doorstep of an orphanage, in a cradle made out of a salvaged cardboard box. I never knew them. The orphanage called me Indri because that was what was on the cardboard over me." Indri chuckled. "Whatever was originally in the box must have been hygroscopic. It had to be stored in driest possible conditions. Indri was part of the in driest that was across my chest."
"I suppose you do understand a bit, then."
"Not much; just a bit. The other kids at the orphanage more or less became family to me, so Im a bit better off than you are."
Running Bear came through a door, joining them. "Whats up, Indri?"
"Him." Indri hooked his thumb at the Tin Man. "Your assignment for the moment is to scan him and his life support suit, so Sickbay knows what they are doing when they try to restore his memory."
For a moment, Running Bear studied the Tin Man. "Itll be a bit of a challenge, Boss. Theyll want both the inorganic and the organic parts scanned in high resolution. I suspect that we dont want to fry the person inside, right?"
"Call me Tin Man, and yes, please dont fry me. Id rather not be boiled, cooked, or otherwise injured, either, if thats all the same to you."
"If youre the Tin Man," Running Bear asked, "which of us is Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion?"
"Knock it off, Running Bear, or Ill decide youre Toto," Indri interjected. "Annoy me enough, and you get dubbed Dorothy. How long do you think itll take to get the scans done?"
"Hours, Boss. Were talking multiple energies, variable intensities, and then trying to integrate it all into a coherent picture, without harming our Tin Mans heart. Figure on this not being done until morning. If we didnt have the research teams leftovers, Im not sure I could do it at all."
"Research teams leftovers?" Tin Man was clearly puzzled. "I dont follow."
"The Hyperion is a one-of-a-kind experimental vessel, Tin Man," Indri responded. "Sort of a test prototype, but built well enough to enter service when the testing was done. The test team and the researchers that first flew her had loads of toolssophisticated scanners, failure analysis systems, manufacturing and remanufacturing machinery, things like thatthat they left on board; probably too much trouble to remove them. The Hyperion got tricked out as a research/science vessel because of the fancy toys they left. So we get to use them, if we need them."
"Which means were in an Engineering paradise," Running Bear quipped. "Weve got lots of fun toys to play, uh, I mean work with!"
"Youll need em, too. Youre going to have to provide a connector from whatever biological monitoring systems are implanted in the Tin Man to the sensors of a biomonitor bed. Thatll be easier said, I suspect, than done."
"Figures. Cmon, Tin Man. Lets get to work."
The Tin Man nodded, following Running Bear into a corridor and out of sight.
Harrison Davids looked up at the wall chronometer and realized that his shift in Sickbay was rapidly moving to a close. After finishing out the paperwork he had been doing, he picked up the mediscanner he had set up to watch the turbolift. As he did so, it registered what looked like MBenga and Eletto arriving, punctually as usual. He moved toward the lift, intending to use it to return to his cabin. MBenga blocked his entry.
"Davids, if you could, Id appreciate it if youd remain here for a bit longer. Were going to need an extra hand this morning."
"Fine by me, Doctor MBenga. Whats up?"
MBenga shook his head. "Dont pretend to be dense, Hardav. Were expecting Indri and the Tin Man any time now, and its going to take everything weve got."
"Really?" Davids was clearly puzzled. "I cant figure why. Elettos here, and hes about as good at thinking outside the box as I am, if not better. Im happy to stay, mind you, but "
Eletto joined the conversation. "Ever work with anamnestine, Hardav? Because if you havent, youre about to get some hands-on experience with it."
"Whoa, you guys mean business dont you?" The PAs face paled slightly.
"Look," MBenga responded, "We have eighteen hours before we report back to Admiral Gragar. Odds on, you know him well enough to guess how hes going to react when he finds out that the Federation has laid out a fortune to ransom an unidentified, possibly unidentifiable, individual. Enough said, Davids?"
Davids paled even further, his face going almost as blond as his hair. "Way too much said. Tellarites are definitely not known for their sense of humor, and Gragars sense of humor is considerably below average, even for a Tellarite. Definitely time for anamnestine. Anyone here into praying for miracles, too?"
"Already on that one, Hardav," Eletto grinned. "This is me, man. I dont hope for miracles; I rely on em."
Before anyone could reply to Elettos remark, Indri, Running Bear and the Tin Man came out of the turbolift, shadowed by two security guards.
MBenga turned to the new arrivals. "May I presume you have a patch cord to go to the biomonitor, gentlemen?"
Running Bear held up a cord with a Medusa-like tangle of connectors sprouting from one end. "Ready for action."
MBenga nodded. "Then lets be about our business. Tin Man, if youll take the biomonitor table?" He pointed to the door and looked at the security guards who both bid a quiet and hasty retreat.
Silently, Tin Man lay back on the table. Indri and Running Bear followed him, Running Bear opening a panel on the biomonitor, and Indri opening one on Tin Mans upper chest.
Eletto reached out to a pair of protruding copper bars exposed by the panel sliding aside. "What in space are these?"
Before Eletto could make contact with them, Indri slapped his hand aside. "At one time, they were the plug they connected Tin Mans power supply to. Hes got his own power supply, now, but the Orions didnt bother disconnecting this thing. As I recall it, theres about a five hundred volt potential across those pegs, at about sixty or sixty-five amps. Itd make Running Bears braids stand straight out from his head if he touched em."
Eletto pulled his hand back. "Thats a wretched design. Looks like the access ports are right next to those tines. Howre we supposed to hook things up without getting electrocuted?"
Out of one of his pockets, Indri produced what looked like an extensible pointer with a grip on one end. "Insulated grab, Doc, rated to handle ten kilovolts at a hundred amps." Taking the other end of the cable that Running Bear was connecting to the biomonitor, Indri gently grasped it with his tool and slid it into place. "But I suspect that when the Orions were working with this, they had a plug over this, powering the life support. Well get a proper insulating cover done later today, trust me. I dont relish the idea of one of you folks in Sickbay turning into a crispy critter."
"Good enough, Indri," MBenga interjected, taking control of the situation. "How about connecting this to a venous delivery port?" He handed a tube to the Engineer, who put it in place. "This, to the venous sampling port." Another tube was connected. "Is there a port for the cerebrospinal fluid? Id like to sample that, too."
"Theres a port, all right. Let me have the tube."
MBenga delivered the last tube, which Indri installed gently. Running Bears head reappeared from under the biomonitor display. "Ready to connect up on your command, gentlemen."
Indri looked at MBenga, who nodded his approval. "Go for it, Running Bear."
The engineer reached behind a panel and toggled a contact. Almost immediately, the biomonitor began to display the Tin Mans status.
After a moments study, MBenga turned to the Tin Man. "You understand that there is some risk in this."
The trititanium oval turned to face the doctor. "Very little in life is free of risk, Doctor. Fill me in?"
"Anamnestine is pretty potent stuff. It is intended to jar your memory enough to restore what youve lost. Most of the time, it workssomewhat, anyhow. Sometimes, however, it can damage critical memory structures, leaving you with less memory than you had before. Also, it might irreparable cause damage to other structures."
"Sounds like its the medical equivalent of hitting a malfunctioning piece of circuitry, hoping itll jar back into function. Basically, what youre saying is that I might regain some or all of what Ive lost; I might lose some of what I have; and there is a chance I could end up a canned vegetable."
MBenga winced. "Thats one way of putting it, I guess. Its a little stronger than I would have put it, but " He let the sentence die, unfinished.
"Ill take the gamble, doc. Lets get on with it."
MBenga turned to the physicians assistant. "Davids, you take the auxiliary monitorkeep a close eye on the brain. Eletto, Ill watch the main biomonitor. You administer the medication. Do you think its worth considering restraints?"
"Dont waste your time," Running Bear said. "Those arms and legs are moved by paired tractors across each joint. Youd have to have transparent aluminum I-beams ten centimeters across to hold those limbs down. And I wouldnt guarantee that even that would be enough."
"Okay," MBenga responded. "Forget restraints. Lets go, team."
Each individual moved to their assigned task. For a moment, there was silence as each one assessed the situation for the last time. MBenga looked at the Tin Man one last time. "Are you ready?"
"Ready and willing."
"Youll lose consciousness for a period of time, Tin Man. When you wake up, hopefully youll have regained your memory." He turned to Eletto. "Run in fifty micrograms of anamnestine, Eletto, very slowly."
Obediently, Eletto tapped on the console before him. Slowly, the Tin Mans metallic neck dropped the trititanium head onto the pillow. It rolled slightly to one side.
"Electrical activity of the brain indicates sleep," Davids announced. "Activity in the temporal lobes and hippocampus are stable, roughly at background."
"Take it to a hundred micrograms, in five microgram increments," MBenga ordered, not taking his eyes away from the biomonitor.
Again, Eletto tapped on his console again. This time, the biomonitor showed a slowing of heart rate and respiration. Slowly, as the administration of the medication ceased, they returned to normal. Immobile, MBenga watched.
"Hippocampal activity is increasing; temporal lobe, still at background. Looks like stage 3 sleep otherwise," the PA offered. "Think he can handle another fifty, Doctor?"
"Fifty? Probably, and maybe a shred more. Its worth the risk. Giac?"
"Fifty more, slow and easy, Keme." Eletto tapped the console again. Slowly, the heart rate and respiration fell again, lower than before. Eletto slowed the rate of administration slightly. As before, they normalized as the administration ended.
"Electrical activity, hippocampus and temporal lobe, rising rapidly. Cerebrum otherwise depressed; some interference still at the brain stem level." Davids looked up. "Acetylcholine turnover is rising rapidly, too."
It almost seemed that MBenga hadnt heard. Davids was about to repeat himself when the physician stirred. "Set up to deliver two hundred micrograms of transvernal as a bolus. Then take Tin Man up to a total of a hundred seventy-five of the anamnestine. Be ready to terminate delivery and give the transvernal on my command. Hardav, I want to know the instant the brainstem activity starts to drop near critical."
"Start the last dose of anamnestine, Giac."
With the administration triggered, Eletto fixed his eyes on the biomonitor, his hand poised to deliver the transvernal. One by one, the indicators began to edge downward, as the tension in Sickbay rose. Suddenly, the physicians assistants voice broke the silence. "Approaching critical suppression at the brainstem level."
Elettos finger jabbed at a contact on the console. Within seconds, the indicators on the biomonitor stopped their fall. Slowly, they began to climb again.
"Brainstems recovering, Boss," Davids announced. "Cerebral function climbing again, slowly; hippocampus and temporal lobe activity is drifting back toward normal. If all has gone as well as it looks, the Tin Man will be waking up soon, hopefully in more ways than one."
Quietly, the five men watched the sixth, waiting expectantly. Moments crept past slowly. Finally, one arm lifted, the hand moving across the trititanium face as if wiping cobwebs away. The head lolled from side to side a few times before lifting up. After a short interval, the face seemed to lock onto MBenga. Ultimately, MBenga broke the silence.
"What can you remember, friend?"
"Is it safe for me to sit up?"
"Just be careful; I wouldnt want to have any of the tubes or wires disconnect."
The Tin Man nodded. "Of course." He sat up carefully. "Remember? Cold, terrible cold. The planet was class Z, a rogue, one of the ones that wander independently, without a star to orbit. We had built a research station on it. I dont recall why, but I think what we were doing required the incredibly low temperatures of such a planet to work properly. There were several experimental units, essentially identical. There had been considerable preliminary work done before we moved to the planet, and the small scale, low power trials on the planet had continued to show considerable promise." Tin Man shook his head. "We had powered up the first of the full scale units, then something went wrong, direly wrong. There wasnt any power in the base, suddenly. No light, no air movement, no heat. Why, I dont recall, but there was plenty of oxygen in storage tanks, so we started burning things to stay warm. There was only twelve or thirteen hours before we expected an Orion supply ship to come; all we had to do was not freeze to death until they got there, and wed be safe. One by one, we got drowsier and drowsier, then fell asleep. Last of all, the drowsiness overtook me. I guess when the Orions finally arrived, the other thirty-seven were dead." One trititanium hand lifted up to where the Tin Man could stare at it. "I guess I was pretty nearly dead, too, but there was enough left to patch together."
"I lost a lot of friends, good friends, in a catastrophe, too," Eletto commiserated. "Its hard to be the only survivor. My names Eletto, Giac Eletto. Whats yours?" As he spoke, Eletto extended his hand.
"Im " Tin Man reached for Elettos offered hand, stalling before he could finish the sentence. "Im Im not sure. I can remember my friends, my coworkers; I can see their faces as clearly as if they were here, but I cant recall their names, either. Before you ask, I have no idea what we were doing, who was sponsoring the project, or anything else about itother than that there was a tragedy that cost a lot of good folks their lives."
MBenga nodded. "How are you feeling?"
"Beat, to be honest. I feel like Ive done four rounds in the ring with a neutron star." The trititanium head shook, again. "Maybe a rest will help. I feel like I need one."
"No shock there, Tin Man," Davids tossed in. "As far as your brain is concerned, youve taken a whale of a beating. Hey, maybe a nap will help with your remembering. When I get too tired, I have trouble remembering my name, too."
Indri began disconnecting the assorted tubes and wires from the Tin Man. "I suppose youd like to sack out in your cabin?"
Tin Man turned to face Indri. "Its not like it really matters a lot; I think I could program this tin can to stand up and still sleep fine, but yes, I would."
Indri looked at MBenga, who nodded assent. "Good enough. Since the medical team gives its approval, then, Running Bear and I will escort you back, on our way to Engineering." The threesome disappeared into the corridor, trailed by the ever-present security guards.
"Hey, sweet trick, Doc," Davids quipped. "I think you almost had him telling you."
Eletto shrugged. "It was worth a try. Sometimes you can bypass the thinking process by throwing a question theyd react to without having to think about it, sort of an automatic response question. Unfortunately, it wasnt a winner this time around."
"If a good nights sleep doesnt help him any, Giac," MBenga added, "I think you need to see what you can find in casual conversation. Be planning along those lines."
"And if its all the same to both of you, I think Im going to hike back to my quarters. Its past my bedtime." The PA nodded and headed for the turbolift.
The chief medical officer stood silently, staring after Davids. Eletto watched, briefly, then spoke. "Hyperion to MBenga. Come in, MBenga. Whats on your mind, Keme?"
Response was slow in coming. "TSoral, actually, Giac." The far away look on the physicians face disappeared. "Shes our next step, I think. In my internship on Vulcan, I saw Vulcan physicians handle amnesia fairly routinely." The Zulu turned to the wall communicator. "Bridge."
"Uhura here. Whats up, Doctor MBenga?"
"Weve finished the anamnestine on our Tin Man, Captain. Could you and TSoral join us in Sickbay for a moment?"
"Ten minutes, Doctor."
In less than the promised time, Captain and Chief Communications Officer arrived in Sickbay and were ushered to chairs. MBenga opacified the transparent walls, more out of habit than need. He wasted no time. "Captain, our efforts with the anamnestine have been only marginally successful. I wish to broach another attack on Tin Mans amnesia, but I wish to have your approval and TSorals agreement."
Uhura nodded. "Im open, but I sense a catch."
The chief medical officer nodded. "A catch, or perhaps a risk." He turned to face the Vulcan. "TSoral, I did my internship at ShiKahr Hospital. There is a Vulcan technique for memory restoration, using the Vulcan mind meld, that was used routinely in cases of amnesia. Are you at all familiar with it?"
Cautiously, the Vulcan nodded. "My father was Sorel, of Tractate on Vulcan Medicine fame, Doctor. I am thoroughly familiar with the technique. I assisted Father with it several times. However, it was strictly done with Vulcans. One of the few certainties we have about the Tin Man is that he is Human. I am not aware that it has been tried in Humans."
"Trust me, TSoral," Eletto interjected. "I have excellent reason to believe itll work. Sort of personal experience, you might say."
Uhura nodded. "Good point, Doctor. Spock was probably not as well trained in the technique as you are, TSoral."
"I will accept that on face value," TSoral responded. "There remain issues to be considered, however. Perhaps the most important one is the cause of the amnesia. If it is due to physical damage in one or more portions of the brain, there is nothing that can be done in a mind meld. It is possible to work around damaged areas, but dredging memories out of dead tissue is impossible."
"The problem isnt structural. As far as we can tell, it is purely psychological, a post-traumatic amnesia." MBengas brow furrowed momentarily. "Basically, the memories are there, but have been walled off. What were hoping is that you can find a crack in that wall."
"I would appreciate more detail, if possible." TSoral clearly was not satisfied that she comprehended the situation.
"Giac, youve probably seen more of this than I have, at least in Humans. If you would give her an explanation?"
Eletto nodded, turning to face the Vulcan. Before he could speak, she did. "If you would concentrate on the issue as you are describing it, and if you speak somewhat slower than usual, it would help." TSoral closed her eyes, concentrating.
"Good enough. What it boils down to is that the Human is subjected to an event that was so traumatic that it is unbearable to recall. In self-defense, the memory gets pushed behind a mental barrier. On occasion, with an especially traumatic event, not only the specific event but even memories that might remind the Human of the event get pushed behind mental barriers as well." The doctor paused to let TSoral weigh the statement. "Have I clarified things for you?
"Greatly, thank you. If I may use a simplistic analogy, the memories and the emotions tied up with them are walled away, where they cannot intrude to devastate the Humans mind. Given that, for me to breach that psychological wall would be very much like putting a hole in a large dam: the contents behind would come forward with remarkable speed and violence. Do I comprehend clearly?"
"Thoroughly, TSoral," MBenga responded. "Better, I think, than I did, or I would never have suggested the idea. Its too risky. Anything devastating enough to make a Human forget their own identity would disrupt your mind, too."
The captain stood. "I cannot permit it, then. I dont care who this man may be; hes not important enough to put one of my crew in that kind of jeopardy. Is there anything else, Keme?"
The Zulu shook his head. "Not at the moment, anyhow. Maybe later, we could discuss how to handle Gragar."
TSorals eyes went from MBenga to Uhura and back. "Under the circumstances, I request permission to return to the bridge, Captain."
Uhura nodded. "Ill go with you, Lieutenant, in a moment." She turned back to the two doctors. "Theres only one reasonable approach: tell him the truth, clearly and carefully. I want you both with me on the bridge, to back me up on this."
Both men nodded. "Well be there, Nyota," MBenga promised.
Uhura looked down at the chronometer in the arm of her captains chair. Gragar, she realized, would be communicating shortly. She looked at TSoral.
"Doctor MBenga has been summoned, Captain," TSoral responded, before the captain could ask. "He will arrive shortly, bringing Doctor Eletto with him."
Uhura nodded, shifting her gaze to the forward viewscreen, trying to decide how best to phrase her report to Gragar. Behind her, the turbolift disgorged the two doctors.
"Contact with Admiral Gragar, Captain," TSoral announced.
Gragars hog-like face filled the screen. "How has the mission gone, Captain?"
"The individual in question has been successfully retrieved, Admiral."
"After paying a ransom the size of the gross annual product of a modest size colony, I think it would be nice to know who it is that weve ransomed, Captain."
Hes already annoyed, Uhura thought to herself. Hell explode when he finds out. "There is a minor problem, Admiral. He suffers from what the Medical department describes as a severe amnesia. He has no memory of his identity."
Gragar shook his head in annoyance. "He may not have a memory, but Im sure you could check to see if his retinal prints, his fingerprints or his face matches any of the records of Starfleet personnel stored in your computers database."
Before Uhura could reply, MBenga butted in. "That wont be possible, Admiral. The individual suffered severe frostbite before he was rescued. Both of his arms and legs are missing; his retinas are destroyed, and his face is severely damaged. In fact, he hasnt much face left, to be honest. We have harvested blood for DNA identification, but he is not in our DNA database."
"You mean that the Federation has shelled out the price of a small starship to ransom someone who has no idea who he is, and whom we have precious little hope of identifying?" As he spoke, Gragar stood up, leaned forward and slapped his fore-hoofs on the desk in front of him.
"That appears to be the case, Admiral," Uhura began. "We have already used anamnestine to try to restore his memory, but to"
Gragar interrupted Uhuras response, sitting back in his chair and starting to snort loudly and repeatedly. One of his fore-hoofs grabbed his immense, Tellarite abdomen, while the other one started wiping tears from his face. "Weve bought a solid gold asteroid, and found that it was iron pyrite!"
Uhura looked over at Drevan, her eyes asking the question for her.
"Um, I wouldnt care to swear to it, Captain," the Andorian said, "but I believe that Admiral Gragar is doing the Tellarite version of laughing his boots off. I wasnt aware that such an event was possible."
Patiently, Uhura waited for Gragar to get over his fit of laughter. Finally, Gragar controlled himself. "I told Commander-Starfleet Davis that this was too easy, and her chiefs of staff told me I was an idiot, and just being paranoid. The one thing we didnt think to ask about is exactly what were facing." The Tellarite wrinkled his snout. "This puts a whole new slant on things. I believe you have a Vulcan communications officer, Uhura. Have you considered seeing what her talents can do on the subject?"
"Regrettably, Admiral Gragar," TSoral replied, "I will not be able to resolve this problem. We have already discussed the situation. The Vulcan mind meld is able to aid in restoring lost memories, to a significant degree, but the problem here is distinctly different. As I understand the situation, this individual is actively subconsciously suppressing all memories related to the traumatic event he is trying to evade facing. To unleash these repressed memories will also unleash the flood of emotion that is tied to them; this would very likely not only disrupt the mind of the individual, but also the mind of the Vulcan in the mind meld. The net result would be no new knowledge, and two incapacitated individuals rather than one."
"Another wonderful idea torpedoed by a single, inconvenient fact." Gragar rubbed the base of his hog-like snout for a few moments. "Anyone have any ideas?"
Several long seconds of silence passed before Eletto ran his hand through his short-cropped, brown hair and broke the silence. "If I may be so bold as to point it out, Admiral, I suspect that you have a rough idea as to who this individual might be, or the Federation would never have shelled out a kings ransom to recover him. With that in mind, there is one thing that we could try."
"How secure is this channel?" Gragar demanded.
"As near totally, Admiral, as current technology permits," TSoral responded.
"Good. Youre quite correct, Doctor. This individual is one of thirty something scientists who were working on a Federation-funded, civilian research project." Gragars eyes tightened slightly. "What were you thinking?"
"One approach to restoring his memory would be to return him to the area where the trauma occurred in hopes that being there under appropriate supervision might allow him to return to the repressed memories safely, so to speak. There have been successes with such an approach, when all else has failed." Eletto shrugged. "It might be worth a try, anyhow."
For a moment or two, Gragar shifted uneasily in his chair, staring at the surface of the desk before him. He tapped on a control surface. "What I am about to transmit is ultra secret, gentlebeings. To give you the gist of the situation, whomever you have rescued was working on a project lead by a Doctor Diego Shengmin. I dont pretend to understand the project completely, but as best I know, Shengmin thought that he had managed to find a way to tap the so-called quantum vacuum for energy. The project had shown good initial results, and had set up on an airless, sunless planet to try a full-scale test. My guess is that the test went awry."
"All due respect intended," Drevan said, "but Im fairly clear on the physics involved here, Admiral. Any energy borrowed from the quantum vacuum has to be repaid, so to speak, in a very short time; the more energy borrowed, the shorter the time until it has to be paid back. Simple conservation of energy demands that. Additionally, thermodynamics would demand that, if it were more than a trivial amount, that the energy borrowed be paid back with interest."
"Yes, yes, yes, I know that." Gragar stared at the ceiling, slightly nettled. "I may be a mere admiral, but Im not totally ignorant of the sciences. The trick Shengmin had, as far as I comprehend it, was that he could arrange to repay the energy from some other source, such as, perhaps, the kinetic energy of a gas or a planet, or some other thing, so that energy was completely conserved. Either way, it boiled down to borrowing energy in one place, and paying it back from another, without thermodynamics being violated." He wrinkled his snout again. "Look, the file you should have received will clarify that for you. The important issue is that it will also tell you the coordinates of the class Z rogue planet the project was using. You are hereby ordered to go there. Hopefully, you can trigger his memory to return. I expect a report as soon as you are able. Questions?"
Uhura looked at her bridge crew; none seemed in doubt. "None, Admiral."
"Good. I shall look forward to your report. Preferably soon." The admirals face was replaced by the star field in front of the Hyperion.
"Man, I never thought Id live to see that." The voice was Drevans. "I mean, a Tellarite laughing is rare enough, but Gragar getting a belly laugh? I wish I had a diary so I could write that down in it."
"I concur. I did not think that Admiral Gragar was likely to laugh about this matter," TSoral agreed. "Indeed, I was not clear on whether Admiral Gragar was able to laugh at all. I doubt that anyone will believe this. Had I not witnessed it, I do not think I would have believed it."
"I dont believe you two," Uhura quipped. "TSoral, do you have the location of the planet in question?"
"Then get us there, Mister Marsden."
The forward viewscreen of the Hyperion was filled with a most un-promising appearing, planetary sized ball of ice. "Any sign of Human activity on the planet, Drevan?"
"Im hunting, Captain. The planet looks reasonably Earth-like, actually; other than being frozen solid. I suspect it formed in orbit around a star, developing normally until some cataclysmic event sent it flying loose. Itd be easier if the planet werent all at 4.3K, you know." The Andorian shook his head. "They must have needed to work at temperatures obnoxiously close to absolute zero to be willing to put up with this, but at least they had a nice, thick layer of oxygen snow to melt and breathe." There was silence as Drevan continued his scan. "Looks like a recent crater, Captain, with what looks like fresh oxygen snow. Its big, too: radius looks like about a kilometer, and its about a hundred meters deep." The forward viewscreen suddenly showed a brilliant blue-white, circular smudge on the surface, with rays of similar color radiating out into the dusty gray of the rest of the surface. "Not far from the crater is what looks like an oxygen ice cap over an emptied dome. Under the circumstances, I think weve found our research station."
Uhura turned from the forward screen to her chief science officer. "Status of the station?"
The Andorian shook his head. "Frozen solid, Captain. Its going to need thawed before we send a team down there."
Uhura turned to TSoral. "Get me Engineering, please."
"Indri here. What can I do for you, Captain?"
"We need to do some preliminary thawing of the installation below. Can you whip up some sort of space heater that can take the research station from about 4K to something close to bearable?"
"It should not take much longer, Captain, than about an hour, I should say. If we can manage to restore power to the facility, we should be able to transport a team down in standard uniform in twenty-four hours or less."
"Excellent, Indri; obviously you anticipated the need. Is there anything else well need that youre working on?"
"Well, there is a little communications project that TSoral and I are developing. It involves using a hyperbolic phase conjugate reflector to "
"I should have known better than to ask. Thank you, Indri. Bridge out."
Indri, Uhura, MBenga and the Tin Man materialized in the central module of the now-thawed installation. The Tin Mans trititanium head swiveled slowly, taking in the scene. "Its been cleaned up considerably." One arm extended, pointing. "We had quite a pile of ash there from burning everything we could burn, just to keep warm. That, and the remains of my colleagues are gone. I expected that, though. The Orions said they buried them in space." Tin Man sat at a console. "Looks like you managed to repair the power supply, Indri. What was wrong with it?"
"To be honest, I dont know. Once we had the power supply I built hooked into the system, we were able to tap the antimatter containment field and restart power generation without incident. Makes no sense to me, yet." Indri shrugged. "Im just happy I could get it running again; that saved me a lot of time and effort."
In response, the Tin Man nodded without comment. He sat in front of one of the readouts clustered near one end of the room. "Did you disconnect the computer, or is it just in sleep mode?"
"Its connected, Tin Man. Its just waiting for an entry code. I tried to work around it, but it wouldnt let me."
"I guess the security system was worth what they paid for it." He tapped on a keypad. "I think this should get things rolling." Tin Man hit a final key, and the readouts all through lit up. "Well, at least I remembered something useful."
Indri moved to another readout. "Computer, list all individuals logged in over last twenty-four hours."
"The only active entry over the last twenty-four hours is a generic activation code shared by all personnel," came the computers emotionless voice. "Specific identification is not possible."
"Nice try," Uhura quipped. "Thatd have been too easy, wouldnt it?" She turned to face the Tin Man. "Listen, can you download the computers records to the Hyperion? Maybe we can figure out what went wrong, at least."
Tin Man tapped at the console. After a moment, the computer spoke again. "Request access code for receiving system." Silently, Indri keyed in a series of characters. "Access established," the machine continued. "Download initiated."
Rising, the Tin Man looked around the central module. "Frankly, nothing here sparks any memories."
"Perhaps somewhere else in the facility will spark something," MBenga offered. "How about walking around a little? Maybe if you came across your quarters, youd recognize them."
"Too bad this tin can cant shrug," the Tin Man responded. "I guess wandering through the living area is worth a try. Couldnt hurt."
Without hesitation, Tin Man moved to one of the doors leading off the main module, the other three following him. After a brief walk through a downward-spiraling corridor, they came out into a large, empty area. Scattered through it were a handful of furnishings, all metal, apparently stripped of their cushions. Coming off it were several other doors, all wide open.
Tin Man moved to one of the stripped chairs and sat down. He looked around the room, the expressionless, polished trititanium of his face turning one way, then another. "There was a conversation, here, a few days before we did the final test," he finally said. "It was pretty heated. It wasnt that any of us were angry, you understand, it was just that we were worried. Wed all been on edge a lot." One hand rubbed across Tin Mans face. "One of us was worried about the amount of energy we would generate, fearing that it would blow the experimental unit to ions. I dont recall which of us it was, but he was pretty emphatic that there was a potential for energies in the teraJoule range, maybe higher. I was sitting right across from him, looking him in the eye."
Silently, Indri took the chair Tin Man had indicated. Tin Man looked him in the eye. The engineer shook his head. "Look, Im telling you, Im worried that the energy is going to be high, too high to handleteraJoules, anyhow, maybe more. Weve got to figure something out, just in case. Do you have any idea how to handle that?"
Tin Man nodded. "Ive been thinking about that. Probably the best bet is to put the base on line, for resistance. We can throw a sensor into the system, and if the input gets to the point where it exceeds the storage of the capacitance, we can bleed it off into powering the station."
Uhura started to comment, but MBenga raised one hand, signaling for silence. The captain nodded, remaining silent.
Indri shook his head. "Dont be absurd. There isnt a person in this station with reflexes fast enough to switch it, and you know it."
Tin Man shook his head. "Knock it off, Diego. Im not being absurd, and you know it. Switch it multitronically. Im sure we can cobble together a circuit that can do it fast enough."
"Im not. And its all our lives were staking on this. Do you have any idea what would happen if this thing turned runaway? The flux could, probably would, rise exponentially or faster. Not even you can rig a module to react with a sub-picosecond response time, and youre a fool if you think anything slower would do the trick."
Tin Man exploded out of the chair, grabbing the engineer by his shirtfront, lifting him almost to the ceiling. "Look, you arrogant little creep, Ive had about enough " Tin Man shook his head. "What am I saying? Sanchez is dead. For a moment, I " Gently, Tin Man realized he was holding Indri up. He gently lowered the engineer to the floor. "Sorry. For a second, I thought I was back arguing with Sanchez, again. He was brilliant, you know. The trouble was that he knew it, and he wanted to make sure no one forgot it, which got on peoples nerves occasionally. Got on mine a lot, I guess; he was really, really abrasive. Anyhow, Im not sure what happened there, but Im sorry."
"I put Indri up to doing it," MBenga interjected. "We discussed having him enter into what looked like any promising scenario, trying to get you to re-enter it yourself, and maybe reconnect to a new area of your memory, sort of like having a flashback. Its a centuries old trick."
"One that worked, anyhow. I can remember arguing with Diego Sanchez for a couple of hours over the problem. At the last, it was just he and I in here, butting heads over it all. Ultimately, Diego designed a circuit to do the automatic switchover. Thats what went wrong, I guess, with the power supply. For some reason, after we switched over to drawing on the experiment for power, we couldnt switch back to the stations power plant when the experiment vaporized."
"That would explain how easily I restored power to the station, I suppose," Indri added, straightening his uniform from where the Tin Man had grabbed it. "I had to do a little rewiring to get the matter-antimatter generator wired in. I probably bypassed the cutout circuit."
"I expect so. Itd make sense, anyhow." Tin Man looked around himself again. After a brief pause, staring at the open doors, he walked to one of the gaping doors, stepping inside.
Uhura stuck her head in the door behind him. There was virtually nothing left inside the room; everything removable and potentially burnable had been removed. Even the clothing in the closet had been taken. "Your quarters?"
"Im not sure, honestly. I was hoping that I would see something in here that would tell me that it was. Maybe it was the room on one side or the other of this one."
Uhura stepped out of the Tin Mans way, letting him look into the two other rooms. Each of the rooms was laid out identically, and each was emptied. Not a personal item remained to jog the malfunctioning memory. Indri moved to the readout in one of the rooms Tin Man had inspected. "Computer, identify resident of this room."
"Room assignments have not been logged."
The engineer scratched his chin, lost in thought for a moment. "Identify individual last logged in via this terminal."
"All access to this terminal has been via generic access code, used by all personnel. Specific identification is impossible."
"Another nice try," Uhura said. "Unfortunately, another strike."
"There was another door off the main module, Captain," Indri suggested. "I doubt that well have any better luck with that one, but its worth a try."
"Im afraid not," the Tin Man replied. "The corridor on the other side of that door spirals up to the chamber that exits to the surface. I dont think any of us want to hike up there."
"Strike three, I guess," Indri quipped.
"Three strikes, and were out." Uhura turned to the Tin Man. "Do you have any other thoughts about areas worth looking into?"
"I guess not; theres nothing else to the base other than the remaining experimental platforms. Im not sure if there are pictures in the personnel files, but theyll have been uploaded to the Hyperion anyhow. At least Ive retrieved a little more. We might as well return."
It almost looked like the Tin Mans head drooped a little bit as he spoke. MBenga draped his arm across the Humans trititanium shoulder. "Dont give up yet, okay? It might take a few hours for the familiar scene to trickle its way down into your brain and trigger more memories. Youve made progress. You never know what might pop back up by this time tomorrow."
"Yeah, I suppose." The mechanical voice was emotionless, but there was no mistaking the despair behind the words. "Might as well head back to the ship." Tin Man moved up the corridor leading back up to the main module. "I dont guess were going to achieve a whole lot more down here."
The foursome assembled in the main module and transported back to the Hyperion.
Gragars face filled the forward viewscreen again. "What results, Captain Uhura? Do we know who this individual is?"
"Unfortunately not, Admiral. However, there is one positive point to report," Uhura made no further comment, letting Gragar digest her remark.
"Im gratified to hear it. Is there any chance you would share it with me?"
"The installation is intact, Admiral. Although the Tin Man has no recollection of his identity, he did remember a generic activation code that has allowed us to completely reactivate the base, including the computer system." She paused an instant, collecting her thoughts. "We have downloaded the entire contents of the computer system and Engineering is subjecting it to detailed analysis."
Gragar straightened in his chair. "Magnificent! Does the download include data concerning the results of the experiment?"
"Regrettably," Drevan interjected, "the experimental data was lost when the power supply failed. We have data up to the instant before the first module was triggered, nothing else. All we have is the scant physical evidence, which amounts to a good-sized crater."
Gragar turned, his image appearing to face Drevan. "How about an estimation of the energy involved, Drevan?"
For a moment or two, Drevan hunched over his science console. "Guessing based on an anomalous cloud of high-temperature oxygen that seems to have been ejected from this crater, the oxygen was probably run up an average of about a thousand degrees Kelvin . Factor in the enthalpy of fusion and vaporization Were talking something on the order of 162 exaJoules, Admiral. Thats conservative; Ive totally ignored the modest changes in the specific heat of oxygen that happen across that sort of temperature range."
"Did I hear you say exaJoules, Mister Drevan?"
"I hope so, Admiral. Its what I said: 162 exaJoules; if you prefer, call it 1.62E17 Joules. Either way, its one big, walloping, monstrous amount of energy that, judging by the appearance of the crater, was delivered in a small splinter of a second. I think the Human phrase would be ka-BOOM. Correct me if I am wrong."
Slowly shaking his head, Gragar leaned back into his chair, digesting the information Drevan had shared. After an uncomfortable pause, the admiral leaned forward again. "You said there were multiple experimental platforms, as I recall it, and that the base was completely repowered, if I understood you correctly."
"That is correct, Admiral," Uhura responded, taking control of the conversation again. "If you wished, we could repeat the experiment using subspace remote control."
Gragars hoglike snout wrinkled slightly. "Thirty-seven of the brightest and best minds in the Federation died in the last trial of this system, Captain, and the only survivor is profoundly harmed, having even lost his identity. I am not interested in adding the lives of your crew to the ledger sheet of the cost of this experiment."
"I believe that it can be done safely, Admiral," Drevan offered. "As near as we have been able to determine, the power supply of the base was crippled by a malfunction in a power switch. Although we have not been able to confirm that the circuit failed, it matches the data we have."
"Im not exactly comfortable with guesswork where the lives of Starfleet personnel are in the balance, Lieutenant Drevan. I would suggest that you find the power switch and be sure."
Drevan shook his head. "Thats not going to be possible. The switch vaporized with the experimental platform. Conjecture is all we have. I am, however, quite certain that we can safely repeat the experiment."
For a moment or two, Gragar sat, silently, rubbing his protuberant abdomen. "I will not order you to repeat the experiment, Captain Uhura. However, I will not forbid your doing it."
A tight smile formed on Uhuras face. "With your permission, then, Admiral, we will see if we can repeat the experiment without loss of life."
"Thank you, Captain. Starfleet will, I am sure, be grateful. Just one thing."
"Be careful, Nyota. Please." Gragars face disappeared.
The captain exhaled slowly. "Congratulations, everyone. We survived. Drevan, I want you to closet yourself with Indri and run over the data we retrieved from the research base with an eye to seeing what it will take to trigger another module. Doctor Eletto, I want you to talk to our metallic guest."
"Happy to, Captain. Id like to know what you want me to talk about."
"The obvious: I want you to see if he can face us repeating the experiment that nearly killed him, and if hes willing to spend time working with the engineering crew to help set the experiment up." Sincere concern was etched on Uhuras face. "Whoever he is, hes suffered enough. I dont want to see the poor soul hurt any more than he already has been."
The chief medical officer looked over at his colleague. "Ill need you for a couple of hours in Sickbay, Giac, but after that, I can cover for us both."
Eletto nodded. "Ill do what I can, then. Cmon, lets get back to Sickbay."
The two physicians disappeared into the turbolift.
The Tin Man sat, staring at a readout, reading. To his surprise, his annunciator chimed. "Come on in."
The cabin door slid aside and Eletto stepped into the room. "Feel like talking?"
Tin Man gestured to an empty chair. "Beats sitting around moping, Doc. Business or pleasure?"
"How about both? Im a little curious about the experiment you were doing, frankly. Think you can remember enough to give me a rough idea of it all? No matter how hard I try, I cant figure out why you guys used a frozen rogue planet."
"Not just any rogue," the Human responded. "This one had been Earthlike, once, before it was sent rogue. That means it has a molten core, despite being frozen solid on the outside. That was the trick, you see. As Ive run over the records the project left, trying to bring my memory back up to speed, I remembered that we searched high and low for just such a planet. We had hopes of using the little trick wed cooked up to heat the planet to the point it could be colonized."
"Thats not the half of it. We figured that, if we could tap the heat of the planetary core, there was nothing to stop us from trying to tap other sources. You have any idea how hot the core of the galaxy is?" Even through the mechanical voice, Tin Mans enthusiasm was obvious, and contagious.
"Last I heard, thousands of degrees, maybe more. But tapping its another issue; youve got only a very short time to repay the borrowed energy, as I understand it, and even at the speed of light, if youre borrowing more than a tiny amount, you cant reach very far, perhaps less than the distance across a hydrogen atom."
"Only if you go through the three familiar dimensions, Doctor. If you could work out a way of going through one or two of the compacted dimensions, the distance becomes effectively nil. Thats what we were trying to do. Think of it: thousands of cubic parsecs at thousands of degrees, there for the tapping. The energy supply is virtually limitless."
Eletto nodded. "And if the waste heat becomes a problem, you just tap that into useable energy somehow. Sweet scheme, if you could get it going."
Tin Mans head tilted to one side. "Never thought of that angle. Are you sure youre a doctor, not a research physicist?"
"Youd better be grinning behind that trititanium mask, buster," the physician gibed. "More seriously, how are you feeling?"
Leaning forward a little, the Tin Man put his hands on the metal balls that represented his knees. "I guess the best way of saying it is that I feel pretty lost, really. Not knowing who I am, not having an identityits pretty tough, if you think about it."
"If it were completely true, I guess it would be pretty tough, but when you think about it, Tin Man, you have an identity."
"I know; its just that I dont know the identity that I have."
"Thats not what I meant. Youre not thinking. You may not know your birth name, or anything about your past, but you still have a very solid identity. Names, appearances, past eventsthose things may help you understand your identity, but theyre not really you."
"Granted, Doc, but that doesnt do much for me."
"It all depends on how you look at yourself." Eletto started ticking off points on his fingers. "To begin with, youre an adult, Human male. Furthermore, youre someone who not only has a firm grasp of physics and mathematics, if not a number of other sciences, youre someone who can dream, and dream big. You were talking about tapping an almost limitless supply of energyif thats not dreaming big, I dont know what is. On top of that, youre someone that the United Federation of Planets valued highly enough that they paid a fortune to get you back from the Orions, and theyve put the entire resources of the Hyperion into trying to help you recover your memory. That may not be the most complex and complete identity in the universe, but its scarcely insignificant."
Slowly, the Tin Man sat up straight, one metallic hand rubbing what should have been a chin. "You make a convincing case. I guess I should just accept the identity I have, until theres more to work with."
"Thats as good a way of looking at it as I know, anyhow. Feel better?"
"Better? I suppose, but I still dont exactly feel Human." Tin Man tapped his trititanium life support system with one hand. "Lets face it, I dont really look the part. Appearance wise, Im closer to a can of sardines, you know."
Eletto nodded. "I can understand your feeling, but Im not sure I share it. Look, Ive been on this ship only a modest length of time, but in that time, Ive gotten to know Drevan and TSoral pretty well. Somehow, Im inclined to doubt that either of them feels any more Human than they look, but to me, theyve become as Human as Captain Uhura or Doctor MBenga. Youre as Human to me as they are. Its not appearance that makes you Human; when all is said and done: its who you are, not how you look."
There was a short silence before the Tin Man nodded. "Ill grant you that. I guess Ive been too focused on my appearance. Reorienting my thinking has helped, at least somewhat."
"Good. I was hoping it would. You know that well be triggering the second module tomorrow morning, dont you?"
"Cant say that Id heard that. Before we do that, Id really like a chance to compare notes with Drevan or Indri, or even better, both of them. I may not recall my name, but Ive still got a fairly clear idea of whats going on with the experiment. Debriefing to them before the next module goes off would be prudent, I think."
Standing, Eletto smiled. "I was hoping you would say that. They sicced me on you, hoping that you would feel that way, and that I would feel you were able to handle it."
"Ill have them waiting for you down in Engineering, Tin Man. You better have your math and physics ready, because theyre out for bear." Eletto moved to the door. "Give me fifteen minutes to track the two of them down, okay?"
Tired, but happily so, the Tin Man returned to his quarters. Drevan and Indri had clearly run through the uploaded files, and both individuals had grasped a great deal of the project. The three of them had wrangled over the details of the experiment for hours, engineering padds littering the table between them. As he lay back on his bed, Tin Man reflected on how much the interaction reminded him of the sessions hed enjoyed in the research station, working until all hours grappling with one detail or another of the theory and design of the apparatus. The common area between the individual quarters had been a lively place. Sanchez had been a bit of a problem, what with his arrogance and his temper, but his insightful genius had more than made up for his shortcomings. The Tin Man clasped his trititanium hands behind his head. So had Sanchezs singing voice, come to think of it. Drifting off to sleep, Tin Man remembered Sanchez singing the solution to a complex set of equations to the tune of an old romantic ballad. At least neither Drevan nor Indri had tried doing that.
Sleep came quickly, deep and restoring, and with it, the inevitable dreams.
Tin Man found himself looking across a table at two others."Im still nervous, Sanchez," Tin Mans dream avatar announced. "Something feels uncertain here." Sanchez nodded. "Of course it does. In case youve forgotten, this is an experiment. The whole things uncertain, after all. If we knew what was going to be happening, we wouldnt be out here on this forsaken, frozen planet." "Knock it off, Diego," the other one responded. "It was just a couple of days ago that you were the one with a bad case of the shakes. Now that youre comfortable that we can cut power before the experiment blows up, suddenly youre the soul of confidence and the rest of us are cowards. Let the man speak his mind without passing judgment, will you?" He turned to the Tin Man. "Whats eating you?" "Thats just it; Im not completely sure whats got my goat. Ive run through Sanchezs module and tested it: as usual, its as close to perfect as anyone ever gets." "Id bow, if I werent seated." "Sanchez, shut up and let him finish or Ill glue your mouth shut." The fellow looked back to Tin Man. "If its not Sanchezs module, what is it?" Tin Mans dream avatar sighed, pushing the heels of both hands into his eyes. He looked up at the other two, Sanchez especially. "Targeting. Thats whats eating me, I think, the targeting. Im just not sure that the work with targeting the repayment of the energy is as solid as Id like. We havent really done enough testing at ranges over about fifteen or twenty meters. Im just not confident that all the necessary variables are accounted for adequately." He snorted. "Im not even sure theyre all in the equations." For a moment, there was silence. Finally, Sanchez stood, reaching across the table, putting his hand on Tin Mans shoulder. "Ive gone over your equations a hundred times, and Ive cross-checked them against the experiments that weve done so far. Your work is brilliant, and its been within one or two parts per million of what weve observed across four orders of magnitude in the distance. It just doesnt get any better than that, man. What are you really doubting? Your work or yourself? Because if its your work on targeting through one of the compacted dimensions, take it from me, you have absolutely no room to doubt." The Tin Man watched his dream avatar rise. "Youre right, Sanchez. Its myself that Im doubting." He stuck a hand out. "Thanks, Diego." Sanchez took the offered hand. "Skip it, kid. We all doubt ourselves, sometimes. Even arrogant old buzzards like me. Lets all get some sleep, eh? Tomorrow comes all too early."
Tin Man nodded. The other two left the area, heading back to their quarters. His dream self shook his head, uncertain. He rose and started to turn toward the polished, reflective surface of one of the control panels.
Just before the reflection of his face was visible in the panel, the alarm rang, wakening him.
Uhura stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge, taking note of all present. Drevan turned to her. "All present and accounted for with your arrival, Captain."
She turned to the Tin Man, who had taken a place just behind the captains chair. "Are you sure youre up to this?"
"I am, Captain," the Tin Man responded. "If you, Drevan and Indri are comfortable, I certainly am. Maybe seeing the experiment triggered will trigger a little more memory."
"It is equally likely to drive you into greater memory loss," TSoral pointed out. "At least, that is the opinion of both of the doctors on board."
"Yeah, I know. Ill take the risk." Tin Man faced the main viewscreen, which displayed the surface of the planet. "At you folks convenience."
Uhura looked at Drevan, Reichard and TSoral. Each silently indicated their readiness. Uhura nodded. "We seem to be ready to proceed. TSoral, send the signal."
TSoral obeyed without comment.
"The platform is powering up, Captain," Drevan announced. "Itll trigger when it hits full charge. Five seconds, four, three, two, one "
Without warning, the bridge became dark and silent; not even the emergency lights came on.
"TSoral, get me Engineering," Uhura ordered. "Drevan, any ideas on whats happening?"
"Your chief communications officer will not be able to contact Engineering, Captain, and with all due respect, I think that I might be in a better position to explain this situation, having some experience with it."
Uhura turned to face the voice. "Tin Man?"
"Indeed, but now in full possession of my memory. Im more accustomed to going by Shengmin. Thats a side issue. To cut a long story short, every dilithium crystal on this ship has been discharged. Unfortunately, without a significant energy supply, youre not going to be able to tap the antimatter containment field to restart your power supply." There was the sound of someone walking. "If I didnt run on ion power, Id be a dead man."
"Unless someone has a bright idea, were all dead except you," Drevan pointed out. "I figure that weve got about ten minutes before the artificial gravity starts to go, and only a matter of hours before the air is unbreathable."
"No doubt. However, Ive no intention of permitting that." Tin Man stood in front of the turbolift door. "Ive got enough survivor guilt without adding to it." Almost effortlessly, he pulled the turbolift door open and stepped into the waiting cubicle. "Good thing this tin can lets me see in infra-red, or all of our geese would be royally cooked. Youd better all strap in. I dont think Im going to get this solved before the artificial gravity goes." The turbolift door slid shut.
Indri and Running Bear sat at separate consoles in Engineering, monitoring the status of the Hyperion and the cluster of sensor drones that they had deployed to watch the activity on the planet. Overhead, Drevans voice counted down. Without warning, the lights in Engineering died.
"If youre about to ask if Im in the dark, too, I am. Not even the backup lighting has gone on. Theoretically, this is impossible."
"So much for theory. Anything on your readouts?"
"Dense darkness, Indri. I guess were about to test the scuttlebutt that you could run Engineering blind, boss."
Indri nodded, despite the fact that no one could see him. "Im afraid so. Finding the emergency reboot for the matter-antimatter system shouldnt be too hard."
There was a brief silence as Indri moved to the panel. The silence was broken by a pounding noise. "Blast it, this is the reboot. Nothings happening."
"Boss, I think were in deep trouble. If I know the bridge crew, theyd be calling us by now, asking what was wrong." Running Bears voice showed honest concern. "They havent. I suspect there isnt a joule of stored energy to tap, anywhere on this ship. And without a sizable amount of energy to tap the antimatter containment field, there isnt going to be any energy to use."
"Okay, time for creativity, Running Bear. If we can tap out the field reserve in the artificial gravity generator here, there may just be enough energy to restart things. What can we cobble up from " Indris remark was interrupted by the sound of the door to the turbolift opening. "What in the universe?"
Light flooded Engineering from the turbolift. Indri turned, to see Tin Man standing in the door, wires running from his chest to the ceiling of the lift. "How much juice will it take to tap your antimatter containment field, Indri? Will the ion power supply in this tuna can do it?"
"Itll easily take ten times what you can produce with your generator, Tin Man," Indri responded. "Nice try, man, but no banana."
"Then get your tools and come with me. Im willing to bet I can at least boot the antimatter reactor on the shuttle."
For an instant, Indri and Running Bear stared at each other, then they began scurrying, collecting up tools and materials. Within moments, they were in the turbolift with the Tin Man. As they moved toward the shuttle bay, Running Bear fashioned a connector for Tin Mans plug. "If I give you the business end of this, Tin Man, can you get it plugged in without light?"
"Hey, I wired myself to the turbolift. Go figure. You have a light to use?"
"Ready to roll, Tin Man," Indri replied. "I dont relish working in the dark." The turbolift opened onto the shuttle bay.
Tin Man held the turbolift door open and disconnected himself from it. An instant later, he had plugged Indris light in place and was escorting the others to the Cochrane.
"I think the best bet is to disconnect the tractors and drives, Indri, and tap in from there," Running Bear suggested. "Well be able to patch from that into one of the power taps in the wall."
"Right. Tin Man, I think the best bet is to use your power supply to recharge the dilithium crystal that runs the reboot."
"Im with you, Indri." Tin Man moved to the shuttle. "Times wasting. Do you need in the shuttle to do this?"
"Afraid so," Indri said. "Can you open it?"
The Tin Man looked at the shuttle for a moment. "How picky are you?"
"Shuttles repairable, if Im alive, and Id rather stay that way. If Im dead, it really doesnt matter whether the shuttles intact or not. Im already feeling a bit light, so the artificial gravity is probably failing. There isnt time for finesse. Do what you have to do."
For an instant, the Tin Man studied the door. Suddenly, he leaped onto the side of the shuttle, forced his fingers into the crack at the edge of the door and heaved. Groaning slightly in complaint, the shuttle door slowly deployed. Even before it had fully touched the deck, Indri and Running Bear were racing up it into the shuttle. The Tin Man followed, providing light for the others to work. Indri had already heaved an access cover off the floor of the shuttle, and Running Bear was pulling one off the console in the front.
"Well need you up front, Tin Man," Running Bear announced. "Youll hook into the power supply from here."
Obediently, he moved forward, trying to keep the light angled to allow Indri to continue his efforts below the shuttles floor without putting Running Bear in the dark.
"Indri, you have everything disconnected and the cable connected?"
"Almost. Give me a minute." Indris head popped out of the floor, the rest of him following. "Ready to roll when you are."
Silently, Running Bear extended a plug to the Tin Man. He disconnected the light from himself, and then connected the shuttle. Immediately, lights came on and the control panel came to life. Indri moved forward. "Good work, Running Bear. Tin Man, youre a lifesaver, literally. Running Bear, snake that cable to the power tap, will you? Ill get the shuttles power supply going as soon as the dilithium crystal is adequately charged."
Running Bear grabbed the plug and jumped out of the shuttle. Indri turned to the Tin Man. "Were charged. I think itd be best if you disconnected before I started this buggy, just in case. Im not sure whatll happen if I do it with you plugged in."
"Get in position to fire her up, Indri, and give me the word. Ill disconnect, and you hit the trigger."
Indri turned to the panel. "Ready to go."
Tin Man pulled the plug from himself. An instant later, Indri hit the reboot. The Cochranes power supply burst into action. Indri flipped on the shuttles forward lights so Running Bear could see to plug the shuttle into the Hyperion. Both men stared, aghast, as the power cord ended before Running Bear could reach the nearest power tap.
Indri slumped in the chair. "So near. I thought we had it made, and it cant be more than two or three meters short. And with the drives and tractors cut out, theres no way to move the shuttle. Reconnecting and retuning them will take longer than weve got left."
Silently, the Tin Man walked to the door.
"Look, you cant stretch the cord, Tin Man," Indri said. "Its not your fault."
"Im not quitting yet. Im going to solve this or die trying. Ive got thirty-seven dead men and women on my conscience already, and Im in no mood to add more." Tin Man hopped out of the shuttle. "Running Bear, let me know as soon as you have that plug in place."
Tin Man turned to the Cochrane. He looked over his shoulder to see where Running Bear was standing, and then moved forward, gripping the lower lip of the front of the shuttle. He leaned back, trying to drag the ship toward the plug. His trititanium fingers slipped off the hard, ceramic hull. A second time, he reached up and gripped the hull. This time there was the agonized sound of ceramic giving under an excess load as his hands tore through it to get an adequate grip. Tin Man leaned back again, pulling. Slowly, painfully, a centimeter at a time, the Cochrane edged forward. There was a small flash; the tractors holding together the Tin Mans left hand had failed. Without a pause, the Tin Man drove the bar he used for a forearm through the hull, bent the bar to lock it in place and kept pulling. One knee exploded in sparks. Tin Man looked down, shook his head, and kept pulling. The gap between the plug and the receptacle narrowed to barest centimeters. There was a final detonation: the Tin Mans power supply had finally failed under the load. Slowly, almost inexorably, the shuttle continued to slide forward, ultimately closing the gap, allowing Running Bear to connect the power cord. Ultimately, it came to a screeching halt as the Hyperions power came back on and the artificial gravity returned to full force.
Running Bear and Indri ran to Tin Mans side, only to see him hanging limply from the front of the shuttle. "Id never have guessed I could look at this metal suit and know the Human in it was dead, Running Bear," Indri lamented.
"Yeah. And I guess he never found out who he was, poor guy. Its too late to make a difference, now, but it would have been nice, you know?"
A third voice joined the conversation. "Your sentiments are touching, gentlemen, but somewhat ill timed. With my ion power supply shorted out, Im running on internal batteries, which havent the power to run anything but my life support system and voice. Under the circumstances, Im sort of hoping youll feel sufficient gratitude to untangle me from the havoc Ive created, and hook me back up to the shuttle power supply. If, of course, its convenient."
Both engineers smiled. "Its definitely convenient, Tin Man," Indri responded. "And itll be just as convenient to get your little suit repaired, too, top priority."
Captain Uhura sat in the command chair, staring at the starscape on the mainviewer, quietly reflecting on how much time she seemed to be spending either talking to Starfleet brass, or waiting for them to call. It seemed to her that she was spending considerably more time on that task than Kirk had done, but she realized that it probably reflected the improvements in the communications systems more than anything else. Behind her, the turbolift door slid open. The Tin Man limped out, Indri just behind him.
Uhura turned to face him, noticing that someone had draped his life-support system in an Engineering uniform, and had put gloves over his hands.
"The uniform is becoming, Doctor Shengmin," Uhura said, smiling. "We should have thought of decking you out in it earlier."
"There wasnt need, Captain," Tin Man responded. "Given the short time frame involved in reporting to Admiral Gragar, Indri and I thought covering the damage up was the best possible solution. Hes carrying my power supply, right now. Only one hand and one knee work, still."
"Well have that fixed shortly, Captain," Indri added. "Running Bear and a couple of ensigns are putting the finishing touches on the replacement parts. If Gragar had given us a couple of hours more, wed have had Doctor Shengmins suit repaired and would have had polyfoam shaped to fill this uniform out normally."
"Glad to hear it, Indri. Doctor Shengmin, I assume that you, Drevan and Indri have had a chance to go over what data was collected?"
"We have, Captain. I think Im ready to report to the admiral. I hope hell feel the Federations investment has been worth while." Tin Man tilted his head to one side. "If Im really convincing, maybe hell get me to a medical center where we can regenerate my arms and legs."
"Dont forget your face, man," Indri quipped.
"Um, Im hoping we can improve on it, rather than just regenerating it, Indri," he returned. "It wasnt exactly my finest feature, trust me."
"Admiral Gragar hailing us, Captain."
"Thank you, TSoral. mainviewer."
Gragars face filled the viewer. "Captain, what have you to report?"
"We have repeated the experiment; there have been some difficulties, but we have dealt with them. Under the circumstances, I believe it would be best for others to report on the findings."
"I think I should make the report, Admiral," Tin Man interjected. "I am, I believe, the individual on board most familiar with the work."
The Tellarites image turned slightly, appearing to look at the Tin Man. "And who would you happen to be behind your metal mask, if I may be so bold as to ask?"
"Doctor Diego Shengmin, Admiral. Are my credentials suitable?"
"Eminently." Gragars tone suddenly became deferential. "Doctor Shengmin, I believe I express the sentiments of the research arm of the United Federation of Planets when I say that I am sincerely glad to have you back. If you have been able to analyze the data, I would be most curious to know the conclusions you have reached."
The trititanium head nodded slightly. "Naturally. There were two fundamental errors that were made in the design of the project, Admiral. The system was quite able to tap the quantum vacuum for energy and pay it back from somewhere at a surprising distance, so in that sense, the project is a tremendous success. The problem was that we were not completely able to control from whence the energy was repaid. There were two issues. We needed a significantly larger separation between the targeting controls, to be frank; to tap resources at any serious distance, say a couple of astronomical units, the baseline may have to be planetary size. More significantly, the experimental units we worked with inadvertently had their quantum equivalent of impedance tuned to extract energy specifically from charged dilithium crystals. Thats what wed used on the initial bench-top testing, and we failed to realize that we had tuned our system to that specific target. By doing that, we killed the power supply at the base, and again, on the Hyperion. If it hadnt been for Indri and Running Bear pulling off an engineering coup, wed all have been dead."
"No doubt." Gragar shook his head. "Then the experiment, on the whole, is pretty well a failure."
"Im not sure I agree with that, Admiral," Drevan chipped in. "It might not power a starship or a starbase, but there are plenty of marginally habitable planets that could be rendered useful with a modest elevation of their temperature. Even on the frigid planet they were using, the molten core couldnt have been more than fifty or sixty kilometers down. Tapping that would be extremely significant. More than enough to power a good sized base harvesting oxygen for starships and starbases."
"Good point, Drevan," Tin Man continued. "Its all a matter of retuning the system properly, and building an adequate baseline. Then theres what the meteorologists could do. Heat the right area of an ocean, and you could inject enough water vapor into the atmosphere to make major modifications to the climate. Cool the right volume of atmosphere enough, and you can make different changes. There are other, equally interesting applications that we kicked around while we were getting the research station up and going."
"Your point is well made, Doctor Shengmin," the admiral conceded. "Well see about picking up where you left offonce, that is, youre back in shape. Captain Uhura, Ill have a corvette pick Doctor Shengmin up and transport him to a medical facility where proper medical treatment can be provided. Ill have the coordinates for the meeting shipped to you shortly. Gragar out." Gragars face disappeared.
Uhura turned to face the Tin Man. "Looks like Gragar will see to your regeneration, Doctor Shengmin."
"Sounds like it. Im
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